Dave’s Off-Season Plan, Part Two

Dave · November 8, 2011 at 9:05 am · Filed Under Mariners 

So, last week, I laid out my suggestion for an approach the team could take to add the impact bat that everyone wants to see on the roster. Of course, the specific hitter targeted very well might not be available, so I said I’d introduce another plan that worked off the assumption that Joey Votto couldn’t be acquired. This is that plan, though you’ll notice it goes in an entirely different direction.

Essentially, in looking at what kind of offensive upgrades are on the market this winter, I simply don’t like the various paths the team could take. Yes, they could throw a huge amount of money at Prince Fielder, but given the costs associated with winning a bidding war for his services and the risks associated with his future production, it’s simply not a strategy that I think would be in the organization’s best interests. Beyond Fielder (and Pujols, who also isn’t coming here), it’s not a very good market for hitters. And so, while everyone wants the team to focus on upgrading the offense, I’m going the other direction.

The team still has a built-in competitive advantage for left-handed pitchers in Safeco Field. Because of how the park plays, LHPs garner a significant benefit from signing in Seattle, and the team can get a better return on investment from investing in left-handed pitching than just about any other type of player. There actually are some talented LHPs on the market this winter, and given the benefits the Mariners can offer southpaws, getting them to sign here is less challenging than trying to convince a power hitter.

So, this plan allocates most of the Mariners money this winter to rebuilding the pitching staff, and gives the team the opportunity to have one of the best run prevention units in baseball. It doesn’t do as much to fix the glaring problems on offense, but unfortunately, I’m not sure I see many good paths to do that this winter. Instead, by building out a potentially top-shelf pitching staff, the team sets themselves up to try to repeat the success of teams like the 2010 Padres. The goal – have the best pitching in the league and an offense that’s close enough to average to win enough low scoring games to contend.

I know people are tired of this kind of roster construction, and just want to see some people who can hit the baseball a long ways. But, forcing yourself down that path regardless of the wisdom of pursuing the available options is a great way to make mistakes that could hurt the franchise long term. Instead, the organization essentially kicks the can on the offense down the road, giving them further time to evaluate the young hitters that finished the season as regulars, and gives them enough pitching depth to make moves to acquire offense either in July or next winter, when better paths to rebuilding the offense arise and the team has a better feel for which guys already in the organization are part of the solution or not.

It’s the kind of off-season that likely wouldn’t be very popular in Seattle, but it would give the team enough talent to be respectable in 2012 while figuring out just how many of the offensive question marks can be useful pieces in the long term. This plan is more of a continue-to-evaluate option than an attempt to drastically upgrade the offense, but I’d prefer to see the team exercise patience than risk the long term viability of the franchise by going for a quick fix that just may not be possible.

With all that said, here is how the Mariners could spend the cash they have available this winter while keeping their options open going forward.


Sign LHP Chris Capuano to a 2 year, $12 million contract.

Sign RHP Frank Francisco to a 1 year, $5 million contract.

Sign LHP Erik Bedard to a 1 year, $4 million contract.

Sign OF/DH Ryan Doumit to a 1 year, $4 million contract.

Sign C Chris Snyder to a 1 year, $3 million contract.

The money gets spread around rather than spent in one place, but Capuano gets the largest share of the available cash. I advocated the team sign him last winter too, when he was significantly cheaper, but all of the reasons for signing him that were true a year ago are true again. His inflated ERA will keep his price down relative to his actual talent levels, and with Safeco Field helping to alleviate his HR problems, he could be a pretty terrific pitcher for the Mariners.

The other largest chunk of change goes to a relief pitcher, which is probably a bit surprising given our insistance that teams can build a bullpen on the cheap without having to pay market rates for them. However, Francisco likely won’t be looking at a multi-year contract due to his home run problems, and on a one year deal, he’s the kind of guy that the team could get value from, especially if League ended up being traded for offense early in the season.

I talked about Bedard and Snyder last week, so we’ll mostly just skip over their places on the roster. That leaves Ryan Doumit as the final free agent signing, and unfortunately, as the guy who would receive most of the attention as the offensive upgrade of the winter.

You’ll notice first off that Doumit is not listed as a catcher – I’d ask him to turn in his catcher’s gear and transition to a OF/DH full-time. He’s not a good receiver anyway, and the wear and tear of catching has led to many of his health problems. Moving him out from behind the plate would hopefully keep him healthier and offer the potential for better offensive performance than he’s historically had, as there’s evidence that the rigors of catching hold down a player’s production at the plate. He’s unlikely to repeat the .360 wOBA he posted last year, but his offensive performance would likely be maximized by having him play the outfield, and he’d give the team an above-average switch-hitter with some power. He’s not any kind of life-saver, but he’d be a relatively low cost offensive upgrade and give the team some positional flexibility with the rest of the roster.

With those moves in place, the final roster would look like this.

The Roster

Position Name PA/IP WAR Salary
C Chris Snyder 300 1 $3,000,000
1B Justin Smoak 600 2 $450,000
2B Dustin Ackley 600 3 $1,500,000
SS Brendan Ryan 500 1.5 $1,750,000
3B Kyle Seager 500 1.5 $450,000
LF Ryan Doumit 400 1.5 $4,000,000
CF Franklin Gutierrez 600 2.5 $5,813,000
RF Ichiro Suzuki 600 2 $18,000,000
DH Mike Carp 500 1 $450,000
C Miguel Olivo 300 0.5 $3,750,000
IF Luis Rodriguez 200 0.5 $450,000
IF Chone Figgins 300 0.5 $9,000,000
OF Casper Wells 400 1 $450,000
SP Felix Hernandez 220 6 $19,200,000
SP Michael Pineda 180 3.5 $450,000
SP Chris Capuano 180 2.5 $6,000,000
SP Jason Vargas 180 2.5 $4,000,000
SP Erik Bedard 120 2 $4,000,000
CL Brandon League 60 1 $5,000,000
RP Frank Francisco 60 1 $5,000,000
RP Tom Wilhelmsen 60 0.5 $450,000
RP Shawn Kelley 60 0.5 $450,000
RP Charlie Furbush 60 0.5 $450,000
RP Josh Lueke 60 0.5 $450,000
RP Blake Beavan 120 0 $450,000
Total     39 $94,963,000

Adding Doumit to the mix gives the team the ability to have 1B/DH/LF shared between two switch-hitters, a left-hander, and a right-hander – it’s setup well for Smoak, Carp, Doumit, and Wells to be placed in positions where they could perform the best, and then it’s just up for them to hit well enough to justify their spots in the line-up. The offense would essentially depend on those four providing power, and would sink or swim based on the level of production the team got from those players.

If they produce, and the team gets enough on-base ability from the likes of Ackley, Seager, and Gutierrez, the offense could be not-horrible, and the pitching staff would be among the best in baseball. Of course, we’ve seen that kind of plan go wrong the last couple of years, so there’s obvious risks associated with this type of strategy. However, it gives the team a chance at respectability in 2012, gives the team more time to evaluate the young talent already in house, and preserves the flexibility needed to make a move for a premium hitter should the right opportunity arise. With a strong, deep pitching staff, the team would be setup well to move pitching for hitting this summer, whether it’s dealing from the Major League roster if the team wasn’t a contender or moving from the supply of arms at the minor league level if they found themselves as buyers.

It’s not a flashy winter, but it’s a practical one that gives the team options and lets them continue along the path to rebuilding from within. It would require more patience from fans, but if a guy like Votto is out of reach, than staying the course is probably the best plan for the organization this winter.


125 Responses to “Dave’s Off-Season Plan, Part Two”

  1. just a fan on November 9th, 2011 10:58 am

    I like this plan, I like it more than the Votto plan even though, DINGERS! Heck, if Votto were available, I might stick with this plan.

    All the defeatists out here need to remember, BASEBALL! Every year, there is some sure-fire cellar dweller that makes a strong push — whether they come up short (2010 Pads) or finish the job (2011 Diamondbacks). This is a team that has the offensive upside to contend. With Smoak, Carp, Ackley and Wells, the offense is likely to be not historically terrible. Having the best run prevention doesn’t require an offensive juggernaut to be competitive.

    That’s where Francisco comes in. What’s one reason the 2007 and 2009 M’s outperformed their run differential? A strong bullpen. Adding Francisco makes the M’s less reliant on Lueke, Cortes, Kelley and Wilhelmsen at the back-end.

    As for the offense, while I doubt he’s available during the offseason, it’s possible Ryan Zimmerman becomes available over the summer. Zim is a free agent after 2013, and if the Natties are struggling, Paxton or Walker could headline a deal for him. It’s also possible Vargas could be swapped this summer to a pitching-starved, OF/DH-crazy team.

    With a competitive first half, the M’s are well positioned to be strong players at the deadline.

    And pray for Guti’s stomach.

  2. Chris_From_Bothell on November 9th, 2011 10:59 am

    I know the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp is very close to free agency (after this season)..but I’m wondering if he might NOT be a good candidate to go after in trade for this year, and then do your utmost to sign long-term.

    A righthanded Dodger batter who had a career year and 39 homeruns, brought in to shore up the offense. Hm. Sounds familiar.

    All snark aside, I thought (from my very limited understanding of the trade market in general and Dodgers specifically) that the Dodgers were looking for more offense. I don’t know if offering them some shovelful of pitchers and one of the outfield pile would do it. And I don’t think the Votto plan works here, as Kemp has been good 4 out of the last 5 years but I don’t think he’s on a level that merits trading Pineda for him.

  3. Chris_From_Bothell on November 9th, 2011 11:05 am

    It seems that everyone forgets that Mariners baseball WAS interesting for a fair part of the season this year. A fluky long losing streak did us in, but it was interesting till then.

    Well, in hindsight, it was more like a fluky first half stretch of the rotation pitching out of its mind, got people’s hopes up higher than they should have been. The interesting bits apart from that stretch of idle dreaming in June or so, were folks like Carp, Pineda, Ackley, etc. coming into their own.

  4. IM on November 9th, 2011 11:48 am

    I would look some of the Internation Free Agents before dropping 12Mil on Capuano
    Iwakuma I think has more upside, he may cost a bit more.
    Wei-Ying Chen is the guy to go and get, he’s a lefty with better stuff, probably in the same to lower price range and has said he would come to the MLB if given an opportunity to make someone’s rotation.
    Tsuyoshi Wada is a lefty, nothing too special, but I’d take him over Capuano at that price

  5. opiate82 on November 9th, 2011 2:56 pm

    I wonder, with Jack Z only getting a one year extension, what kind of pressure he is under to put a contender on the field now. What kind of expectations does he need to meet to keep his job (realistic or not).

    I would like to see what a Plan C “I must contend now to keep my job” plan looks like. I’m not talking about a signing Fielder and Puljos pipe-dream, but a plan relative to the M’s expected payroll. Winning now may very well be the situation Jack Z finds himself in this year.

    I’m not saying I’m an advocate of executing such a plan since it would most likely involve decimating the farm system to achieve it, but still would like to see what a “win in 2012 the consequences be damned” plan would be.

  6. Mariners2620 on November 9th, 2011 3:18 pm

    Ownership has some deep pockets, and they need to bump up the payroll once again. I can understand their concern, seeing as how Bavasi completely screwed it up. Jack Z, in my eyes, has earned the trust of giving him a bit of cash to play with. it was once at 117 million or so, I believe, and now it is at what….90 million. That is still a ton of money, but if they are interested in putting butts in the seats and wins on the board, they need to put a little bit of faith in Z.

  7. qwerty on November 9th, 2011 3:29 pm

    I like it generally. I also wish a 3B & MI option would be added.
    How about Jamey Carroll or Jeff Blake as a space filler.

  8. diderot on November 9th, 2011 3:43 pm

    Winning now may very well be the situation Jack Z finds himself in this year.

    This sentiment is offered a lot, but I wonder if there’s any evidence whatsoever to support it.
    I think it’s just as likely that the current front office would prefer never to do another GM search in their careers. My belief is that they’re very much behind him and suppport his approach 100%.

    I don’t know that for a fact…but think it’s at least as likely.

  9. stevemotivateir on November 9th, 2011 4:20 pm

    ^ They signed him to a multi-year extension, so you’re correct. You can bet he has several plans in place -and improvised versions of each one as things play-out. You can also bet Armstrong and company are well aware of the plans. Some plans may include bigger names nobody suspects (like with Lee a couple years ago). Point is, again, anything’s possible.

  10. ripperlv on November 9th, 2011 4:40 pm

    When the arguments are done, it’s really almost the same team as last year. The upgrade in pitching might be improved out of spring training. But the pitching could very well be equaled sometime next season if Hultzen, Paxton, and Snow were ready in 2012. If your going to go this route, I rather throw the money at Yu Darvish and build an awesome rotation. Along with Beadard and or Moyer. You still have the money to spend on Doumit/Snyder. Also if you sign Darvish, you can afford to package Pineda or Paxton or Hultzen with another prospect or two for some offense.

  11. GOB Bluth on November 9th, 2011 5:25 pm

    Call me crazy but isn’t there some sort of trade scenario that doesn’t involve Votto that the M’s and GMZ could pursue? Why not put a similar package together Dave proposed for Votto for a corner outfielder with upside (Upton, McCutchen) and then also sign the Bedard’s and Caupono’s? I don’t know but I would love to see a team that doesn’t suck next year and going after players like those wouldn’t cost much more than Votto so it wouldn’t jeopardize the future and it would give us a much better team next year.

  12. stevemotivateir on November 9th, 2011 6:50 pm

    ^ For the love of God, PLEASE don’t start talking about Votto in this thread. Thank you.

  13. olystuart on November 9th, 2011 7:21 pm

    Hm. I agree with eponymous’ realistic optimism, though I’d add Paxton too because I think he could very well come up in April and bust out 2-3 war in ’12. I’d say just go ahead and pick one out of Bedard or Capuano for that reason. I’m not going to even attempt to try to figure out who we could get in a trade for some combination of Walker (big name, big money tools, much more of a longshot than Paxton or Hultzen realistically and especially in the short term = trade this one), Liddi, Halman, Cortes, etc, but Walker is a hell of a prospect and maybe we could find a real catcher or a much better RH OF/DH than Doumit. Coming from Z it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he one-upped this Plan B with a trade like that, though I can only guess with my prospect-opinion bias as to whom for whom.

  14. bookbook on November 9th, 2011 8:12 pm

    I’d like to see the payroll expanded to 100 million or even a touch higher. It’s in the M’s longterm best interest to squeeze past .500 in 2012, if possible. Could an extra 6 or 8 million make that happen, if applied in conjunction with this kind of careful moving forward? I suspect so…

  15. GOB Bluth on November 9th, 2011 8:56 pm

    I wasn’t trying to get the Votto trade talk back up and running because, well, that was just ridiculous. I was more wondering if there were other trade options out there that we could go after that wouldn’t mortgage the future that would help this year and for the next few years, while still leaving room on the payroll for several mid-market FA upgrades. It’s not like Votto is the only impact bat that could be traded for this winter. I was hoping there was somebody out there smarter than me that could answer that and if this isn’t the thread for that, the last thing I want to do is get a discussion started about how our prospects would never get traded for player X. I had plenty of that with Dave’s plan A.

  16. Sons of Bucky Jacobsen on November 9th, 2011 10:38 pm

    After reading Dave’s posts with Votto and without, the only thing I have to say is: Bedard? Really? Haven’t we all suffered enough? Why not bring back Jose Lopez while we’re at it. Rob Johnson anyone?

  17. Gibbo on November 9th, 2011 10:57 pm

    Totally agree deal Pineda and co for a decent OF’er. Or how about Gordon and Mike Moustakas, we would have to deal maybe Wells, Pineda, Liddi or Chone for free. But we keep rebuilding with better short term opportunities too.

    That’s what I expect GMZ to do, move the depth to areas we dont have it. Or bring in MCGeehee to compete with Seager and then add in a McCutchen or Bruce. We won’t empty our farm and trade for a guys that aren’t just rentals. Smart upgrades is the way. All these guys in AAA etc can’t all get the chance so some need to go away in trades.

  18. The_Waco_Kid on November 9th, 2011 11:24 pm

    As far as appeasing the fan base, just contend. Win games. Prince Fielder will draw fans for 2 months max. Maybe Moyer could help a bit. But if they are in last place it won’t matter. Aside from trading both Felix and Ichiro, just make the team better and the fans will show up.

  19. Valenica on November 10th, 2011 3:14 am

    I have a problem with Chone Figgins’ projection. Why is it so low? His BABIP was a complete anomoly: .189/.081/.558 GB/FB/LD vs. .245/.139/.719 league average and .272/.185/.715 career. If 2010’s a true benchmark for his hitting, with some extra LDs falling in like they should, he projects around 100 wRC+ no? If his defense going forward is league average (1.1 UZR 2011) then he should still be a decent 2-3 WAR player. As much as I’d like to see Liddi or Seager start the first 2 months, maybe Chone Figgins is still the best option after all.

    FYI: Ichiro’s rates were .256/.168/.598 vs .300/.163/.699 career. The GB BABIP drop is worrisome (speed?) which might indicate his defense woes are for real. If that’s the case, 2 WAR seems like a decent projection.

  20. zagfan22 on November 10th, 2011 9:56 am

    I saw that Norichika Aoki will be posted by the Yakult Swallows. Aoki is a 28 year old outfielder who hit .292/.358/.360 this year. Patrick Newman on FanGraphs goes as far to say that “Aoki…(is the)truest hitter that Japan has produced since Ichiro.”

    Would it be bad if we put in a post for him to come in and play left field and then become our Japanese draw once Ichiro leaves?

    If we are looking for an OF, would he provide more production than what is on the free agent market?

  21. eponymous coward on November 10th, 2011 12:51 pm

    .292/.358/.360 isn’t that impressive a statline in JLeague.

  22. KaminaAyato on November 11th, 2011 11:37 am

    .292/.358/.360 isn’t that impressive a statline in JLeague.

    Though this year they implemented a single ball throughout all teams which seemed to lower batting averages and HR totals all around while lowering ERA’s.

    I mean, when you have 4 pitchers in the PL and 2 in the CL with sub 2 ERA’s, when there was only 1 in both leagues last year, something’s going on.

    Also, the 25th best batter in the PL (i.e. batting title) that qualified had an average of .244. BA isn’t the best indicator, but still, even for NPB, that’s pretty bad.

    This article too looks into the depressed offense:

  23. Madison Mariner on November 13th, 2011 3:12 am

    Totally agree deal Pineda and co for a decent OF’er. Or how about Gordon and Mike Moustakas, we would have to deal maybe Wells, Pineda, Liddi or Chone for free.

    You can pretty much forget about getting anyone from Kansas City on the offensive side.

    a) Gordon is now the LF with Melky Cabrera sent to the Giants for Sanchez and Verdugo. CF will go to Lorenzo Cain, obtained in the Greinke trade, and RF is Jeff Francouer’s for now. And don’t say, “But they have Wil Myers in the wings”. That’s where he’ll stay, with a full season at AA/AAA in 2012 and a potential 2013 debut(with Francouer possibly being trade bait.)

    b) Moustakas struggled, but they didn’t trade away both Aviles and Betemit to then dump Moustakas. They’ll have him for 6 more years(no, not 5–he debuted late enough in 2011 to delay his free agency until after 2017, unlike Michael Pineda who got a full season with the M’s.) They aren’t shipping him anywhere.

    Basically, the Royals need pitching, yes, but I doubt they would sacrifice their now intact young, cost-controlled lineup(at everywhere but catcher, really) to get pitching. They do have some prospects in the organization who they could trade for a decent pitcher like Pineda, but those prospects(Christian Colon) are far enough away that they don’t help the Mariners. 😉

    More likely they’ll trade prospects ranked in the #11-20 range for someone like Carlos Zambrano, or…if they throw in 1 or 2 decent prospects not named Bubba Starling(who they can’t trade right now anyway), maybe John Danks of the White Sox?

    Just a few thoughts.

  24. wschroer on November 18th, 2011 9:33 am

    Oh god…yet another “run prevention” approach to the off season.

    Let’s ignore the twin disasters of 2009 and 2010 – let’s try another variation of the approach which lauded (at the time) the Casey Kotchman signing …..

    To win, you need someone to hit the ball at least as often as the other team hits the ball…..the Marooners did not do this and unless this changes, they will lose and lose and lose and lose. Their main focus has to be on becoming at least league average in offense – then and only then will good pitching or a good bullpen or being good fielders make any difference in the outcome.

  25. eponymous coward on November 18th, 2011 12:35 pm

    Their main focus has to be on becoming at least league average in offense

    The 2009 SF Giants?

    13th in the NL in runs scored.

    88-74 record.

    The 2010 SD Padres?

    12th in the NL in runs scored.

    90-72 record.

    BUT DINGERZ!!!!!!!1111!!!

    Just because Zduriencik hasn’t executed his strategy well doesn’t mean it can’t be done. In fact, the 2009 Mariners are a decent illustration of the strategy.

    The problem is that sometimes you hit blackjack (2009), sometimes you bust (2010-2011). The important thing is for Zduriencik to not cripple the 2015 Mariners with a stupid contract by sending armored trucks full of cash to the wrong free agents, while doing the best he can for the 2012 Mariners. This offseason isn’t a good one for adding offense. So don’t.

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